Lewis at KPLU in October 2009
|Birth name||Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr.|
|Born||May 27, 1935|
|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Genres||Jazz, jazz-funk, pop|
|Occupation(s)||Composer, pianist, radio personality|
|Labels||Cadet, Columbia, GRP, Narada, Concord, Hidden Beach Recordings|
|Associated acts||Young-Holt Unlimited, Earth, Wind & Fire, Minnie Riperton, Nancy Wilson|
Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr. (born May 27, 1935) is an American jazz composer, pianist and radio personality. Ramsey Lewis has recorded over 80 albums and has received seven gold records and three Grammy Awards so far in his career.
Ramsey Lewis was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ramsey Lewis, Sr. and Pauline Lewis. Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of four. At 15 he joined his first jazz band, the Cleffs. The seven-piece group provided Lewis his first involvement with jazz; he would later join Cleffs drummer Isaac "Red" Holt and bassist Eldee Young to form the Ramsey Lewis Trio.
The trio started as primarily a jazz unit and released their first album, Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. Following their 1965 hit "The In Crowd" (the single reached No. 5 on the pop charts, and the album No. 2) they concentrated more on pop material. Young and Holt left in 1966 to form Young-Holt Unlimited and were replaced by Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White. White left to form Earth, Wind & Fire and was replaced by Morris Jennings in 1970. Later, Frankie Donaldson and Bill Dickens replaced Jennings and Eaton; Felton Crews also appeared on many 1980's releases.
By 1966, Lewis was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with "The In Crowd", "Hang On Sloopy", and "Wade in the Water". All three singles each sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold discs. Many of his recordings attracted a large non-jazz audience. In the 1970s, Lewis often played electric piano, although by later in the decade he was sticking to acoustic and using an additional keyboardist in his groups.
In 1994, Lewis appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, alongside other prominent jazz artists Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by TIME magazine.
In addition to recording and performing, Lewis hosts the weekly syndicated radio program Legends of Jazz, created in 1990. He also hosted the Ramsey Lewis Morning Show on Chicago "smooth jazz" radio station WNUA (95.5 FM). In December 2006, this morning show became part of Broadcast Architecture's Smooth Jazz Network, simulcasting on other smooth jazz stations across the country until its cancellation in May 2009, when WNUA switched over to a Spanish format.
In 2006, a well-received 13-episode Legends of Jazz television series hosted by Lewis was broadcast on public TV nationwide and featured live performances by a variety of jazz artists including Larry Gray, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joey Defrancesco, Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Pat Metheny and Tony Bennett.
Lewis is artistic director of Jazz at Ravinia (an annual feature at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois) and helped organize Ravinia's Jazz Mentor Program. Ramsey also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music, a Chicago inner-city music program and The Chicago High School for the Arts, the new public arts high school in Chicago. Early in 2005, the Ramsey Lewis Foundation was created to help connect at-risk children to the world of music. As an offshoot of that foundation, Lewis plans to form a Youth Choir and Youth Orchestra. In January 2007, the Dave Brubeck Institute invited Lewis to join its Honorary Board of Friends at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Lewis is an Honorary Board member of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Lewis is a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. In May 2008, Lewis received an honorary doctorate from Loyola University Chicago upon delivering the keynote address at the undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Lewis still lives in Chicago, the city of his musical roots. He has seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
|Year Recorded||Album||Record Label|
|1956||Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Swing||Argo|
|1956||Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Jazz||Argo|
|1958||Lem Winchester and the Ramsey Lewis Trio||Argo|
|1959||Down to Earth||EmArcy|
|1959||An Hour with the Ramsey Lewis Trio||Argo|
|1960||The Ramsey Lewis Trio in Chicago||Argo|
|1961||More Music from the Soil||Argo|
|1961||Never on Sunday||Argo|
|1961||Sound of Christmas||Argo|
|1962||The Sound of Spring||Argo|
|1962||Country Meets the Blues||Argo|
|1963||Barefoot Sunday Blues||Argo|
|1964||Bach to the Blues||Argo|
|1964||The Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Bohemian Caverns||Argo|
|1964||More Sounds of Christmas||Argo|
|1964–65||You Better Believe Me||Argo|
|1965||The In Crowd||Argo|
|1965||Hang On Ramsey!||Cadet|
|1966||Wade in the Water||Cadet|
|1966||The Movie Album||Cadet|
|1967||Dancing in the Street||Cadet|
|1967||Up Pops Ramsey Lewis||Cadet|
|1968||Mother Nature's Son||Cadet|
|1968||Ramsey Lewis Live in Tokyo||Cadet|
|1969||The Piano Player||Cadet|
|1971||Back to the Roots||Cadet|
|1972||The Best of Ramsey Lewis||Cadet|
|1972||Upendo Ni Pamoja||Columbia|
|1973||Ramsey Lewis' Newly Recorded All-Time Non-Stop Golden Hits||Columbia|
|1975||Don't It Feel Good||Columbia|
|1981||Blues for the Night Owl||Columbia|
|1981||Three Piece Suite||Columbia|
|1982||Ramsey Lewis Live at the Savoy||Columbia|
|1984||The Two of Us – with Nancy Wilson||Columbia|
|1987||Keys to the City||Columbia|
|1989||We Meet Again – with Billy Taylor||Columbia|
|1994||Urban Knights I||GRP|
|1996||Between the Keys||GRP|
|1997||Urban Knights II||GRP|
|1998||Dance of the Soul||GRP|
|2000||Urban Knights III||Narada|
|2001||Urban Knights IV||Narada|
|2002||Meant to Be – with Nancy Wilson||Narada|
|2003||Urban Knights V||Narada|
|2003||Simple Pleasures – with Nancy Wilson||Narada|
|2005||Urban Knights VI||Narada|
|2005||With One Voice||Narada|
|2009||Songs from the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey||Concord|
|2011||Taking Another Look||Hidden Beach|
With Max Roach
- MAX (Argo, 1958)
With Jimmy Woode
- The Colorful Strings of Jimmy Woode (Argo, 1957)
With Lorez Alexandria
- Early in the Morning (Argo, 1960)
Awards and recognitions
- Career Wins: 3
- Career nominations:
|Ramsey Lewis Grammy Awards History|
|1965||Best Jazz Performance – Small Group or
Soloist with Small Group
|"The In Crowd"||Jazz||Argo/Chess||Winner|
|1966||Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance –
Vocal or Instrumental
|"Hold It Right There"||R&B||Chess||Winner|
|1973||Best Rhythm & Blues Instrumental Performance||"Hang on Sloopy"||R&B||MCA||Winner|
Currently, the normal RIAA certifications for a gold album is 500,000 units.
|1965||The In Crowd||Argo|
|1966||Hang On Ramsey!||Cadet|
|1966||Wade in the Water||Cadet|
|1968||Sound of Christmas||Argo|
- 2002: Ramsey Lewis, carried the Winter 2002 Olympic Torch, Ramsey lights the cauldron for its brief stop in Chicago.
- 2003: NAACP Image Award, Best Jazz Artist, for his album Simple Pleasures (2003)
- 2006: 22nd Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards, Best Gospel Instrumental Album, With One Voice (2005)
- 2007: National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Masters Award
- 2007: Landmarks Illinois, Legendary Landmark Award, as one of living treasures of Illinois. "Just like our landmarked buildings, our three Legendary Landmarks have been critical to the civic well-being of Chicago and stand as a testimony to the greatness of our cultural integrity." said David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois.
- Ramsey Lewis was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 1997 in the area of The Performing Arts.
- "Ramsey Lewis with one voice" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 50 – The Soul Reformation: Phase three, soul music at the summit. [Part 6] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 192, 193 & 207. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- "''Billboard'': Ramsey Lewis". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- WNUA Swings to Spanish Format, Chicago Tribune, May 22, 2009
- WTTW – Channel 11, Legends of Jazz
- Ravinia Festival Archived August 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Grammy Awards Database for Ramsey Lewis". Theenvelope.latimes.com. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- "RIAA Certifications". Riaa.com. Archived from the original on 2015-10-19. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- Tony Faillo. "Winter 2002 Olympic Torch". Worldisround.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- "NAACP: Ramsey Lewis". Theenvelope.latimes.com. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- "Stellar Gospel Music Awards". Thestellarawards.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- 2007 NEA Jazz Master Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Legendary Landmarks Gala". Landmarks.org. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- "Laureates by Year – The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
- Ramsey Lewis official site
- Billboard Chart History for Ramsey Lewis
- PBS – Legends of Jazz
- Ramsey Lewis interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' March 2010
- Interview, About.com
- Ramsey's Rhythms
- Jazz Monthly Feature Interview: Ramsey Lewis
- Legends of Jazz podcasts
- Ramsey Lewis Interview NAMM Oral History Library (2017)